Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2018

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Biological Sciences

Program or Major

Animal Science

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Jeffrey Foster

Second Advisor

Devon O'Rourke


The aim of this project is to utilize high-throughput molecular methods to investigate the diets of three non-native and one native Hawaiian bird species. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has made it possible to produce thousands of sequencing reads of DNA in a relatively short amount of time. This metabarcoding technology has been used to identify a range of different taxa, from bacteria in the human gut to fungi in the soil. More recently, this approach has been used to identify insects in the diets of birds and other species, including bees and bats. Samples underwent genomic sequencing using a targeted approach of the cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene, a region that is present in all insects. DNA was extracted from bird feces and stomach contents using protocols designed for fecal material and a genomic region was amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using universal COI primers. The resulting amplified sequences were compared to an online reference database of millions of insect sequences for taxonomic identification. Data were analyzed for diet variation within and between each species of bird, as well as were compared to arthropods sampled from areas where these birds were observed foraging. The results showed there were a large variety of insects and spiders consumed by birds. There was overlap of insect order between the species of birds, but when diets were examined at a species level, bird species were preying on different insects.

Included in

Ornithology Commons